[LA Life] Drought & A Push Towards Eco-Friendly Landscaping

IMG_1770.JPGBetween the weeks of eternal Summer and an absent Winter, months of sunshine and not a whole lot of rain – it’s understandable why there’s a fairly popular misnomer around town that Los Angeles is in the desert.  With conditions ripe for avocados, lemons and olives – we’re actually considered a Mediterranean Climate with varied seasonal change (yes, we do have seasons!). One thing we don’t boast about very often is being part of an elite 2%: Los Angeles – down into North Western Baja California – is one of only five places in the world with such a climate. The other four being Central Chile, Southern Australia, South Western South Africa and the Mediterranean itself.droughtgif

Unlike those other climates, ours here has been suffering from this overbearing and unrelenting drought; and it’s not just Los Angeles that’s in trouble,California has officially entered an unprecedented fourth year of severe drought.  Over the past few months as Danny and I have traversed California and the Greater Pacific North West from Oregon to Washington and
Canada, I’ve witnessed firsthand how low our water reservoir’s are and just how volatile fire season has become.  It’s not only ecologically detrimentally, but on a personal level it’s heartbreaking to see just how far this drought has gone.  A considerable portion of the state’s economy comes from the farms that line Central California, and the drought threatens the farmer’s way of life as well as their crops.

The answer is simple: water less, conserve more.  

Click Through to Original MIC Article With More Pics

At the end of September, there was even a ginormous slip and slide slated to swing through multiple blocks of downtown Los Angeles – something that admittedly I’d been looking forward to for a while.  Fortunately, or unfortunately – depending on what personal feelings you’d invested in the event – it was cancelled due equal parts passionate citizens, as well as the intensity and duration of our water situation. .

There are small things we can do on a household by household basis like watering your lawn less, flushing less, ensuring larger loads of laundry to reduce the item to water ratio, not taking baths, hell – showering together saves water, too. A man’s home is his sanctuary, which is why this last pill might be difficult to swallow – but last and certainly not least, there’s the manicured maintenance of our yards and lawns.  Between my mother and my step-mother, I might not have grown up with a green thumb but I was definitely heavily influenced by them.  At each and every turn at my mom’s in Menlo Park were bountiful bushes of lavender, roses, and marigolds – while my dad’s in Palo Alto then Los Altos always had lush grass, towering trees, well maintained bushes. But that’s a novelty, and there were enough rainy seasons to substantiate the foliage – fast forward to 2014, and that’s simply not the case anymore.

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Lawns: A Thing of the Past?

At a local level, there are equal amounts of incentives to become eco-friendly as there are to simply conserve water.  For those caught over watering and abusing, Los Angeles will slap you on the wrist with a hefty $500 fine.  On the other hand, if you’re willing to make the shift towards an South Western, Desert – or just plain dirt landscape, the city is willing to pay $3 a square foot under the California Friendly Landscape Incentives Program. On average, that’s a nice chunk of change for the conversion – at least few thousand dollars for the yard.  As of last Summer, 850 residences around the city had made the shift and it’s projected that the numbers have tripled since.

Running around the neighborhood, I’ve started to notice which homes use and abuse the almost depleted supply of water and which homes are doing it right – replacing grass with gravel, stone or even dirt as an ode to South Western, Desert and Ecofriendly landscaping.So far, only one home a block on average has made the conscious conversion. I hope that by raising more awareness of our current ecological state, more question and follow suit. These are some of the houses  in my area that are doing it right.

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If you’re interested in joining the trend – it’s super simple to follow, easy to maintain and so great for the environment.  For starters, mulch, stone, gravel and tanbark can be used for walking paths in leu of grass. California local plants and flowers like the California Holly (Toyon), Concha Lilac, Deer Grass and Tree Mallow require little to moderate water to maintain and are beautiful additions to your property.  If you’d like to go one deeper, succulents and air plants are excellent alternatives to traditional, more water nourished plants.  Succulents are on the thicker side when it comes to stalks and leaves, but that’s because of the amount of water the succulents retain. Air plants, on the other hand, don’t need any dirt and can pull moisture straight from the air.

[Write On] The Community Service Challenge

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Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock that’s under a rock, your social media – and news – feeds have been bombarded and taken over by the ‘ALS Ice Bucket Challenge‘.  The basic premise of the challenge goes like this: once dared, you have 24 hours (some give you 48) to either donate money to the cause, or create a video where by some means or another a bucket of ‘ice water’ gets dumped on your head; then you pass it along.  I’ve had all sorts of feelings about the challenge – from cheering on celebrities to laughing at failed attempts, to wondering “Why ALS?” to an honest  “Why?” in general.  Until I was dared by a friend to take part of the challenge last week, I decided to bite my lip, hold my tongue and watch how it all played out…but now that I’ve done, and donated, I feel like I have a leg to stand on as far as my opinion is concerned. But, before I get into it – let’s back up a bit.

ALS (Amyotrophic  lateral sclerosis) is a terrible Neurodegenerative Disease that slowly breaks down nerve cells, preventing signals from being sent to muscles – eventually, causing muscle and neurological degeneration while hardening the spinal cord.   Here’s a few more basic statistics about ALS while we’re at it

No one can sit here and deny the success or merits of the campaign – in fact, it’s genius: let’s crowdsource for a cause. When the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ was first created, it wasn’t a charity specific phenomenon – it was for all charities (something I think we could all get behind if that was the message), and the message was loud and clear – let’s raise our social awareness, promote viral education, and fund the necessary research.  But now, here we are – California’s in the midst of it’s largest drought ever, there are 800 Million people throughout the world that have no access to clean water, Ferguson has become a civil rights nightmare, don’t get me started on the Middle East and ISIS…and we’re standing around, arguing the merits of  dumping buckets of ice on our heads. Think about the message we’re sending – and what’s being received on the other end;  through a game of proverbial telephone played out via viral videos – the actual dialogue or message about ALS and altruism alike have been lost – all that remains seems to be the ego.

As far as ALS is concerned – the Ice Bucket Challenge has become an international sensation; within a week, $10 Million in donations quickly catapulted to the almost $90 Million they had as of this morning.  Judging by the exponential growth of the cause, it could very well break into the $100 Million mark by the end of this week, if not sooner. To boot, thousands upon thousands of people who would’ve never known what the acronym stood are spreading the word, educating themselves and acting in step with a great ca have their social circles fighting together for a great cause. So now, you might be thinking: it’s bringing people together, it’s getting the word out there.  But, some of the videos as of late have completely forgotten that there even was a cause beyond their own momentary internet popularity.

Then take a step back, and let’s rebrand it as a ‘Charity Challenge’: you pick your charity, you let your peers pick theirs – and the community service aspect truly can make it’s way back to the community.  At any time, any of the people participating in the ALS-IBC could’ve picked a different charity for their contribution – I did; I also donated to ALS.  Charity is a veritical on the branch of Altruism – the belief or practice of selfless concern for the well-being of others. When you’re concerned for the well-being of others, there isn’t an incentive attached – or, a bucket full of ice water, or 15 minutes of viral fame.  No one should necessitate attention or praise to do something as simple as writing a check, especially for those that’ve already reached celebrity status.  One thing that I understand, when you’re a star – actions speak louder than words, and viral videos – doubly so.  But when the message is take the bucket, or donate – I’m begging for a byline that reads: I did both!  

I’m not touting, doubting or shaming the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – in fact, I hope that all other charities can find a similar model to follow (…that doesn’t destroy resources.)  Regardless of how everyone feels about it, we’re all sitting around – talking about it; and that’s the point, right? I’m more aware than I was before I got this dare; I hope you all are now, too.  I’m also aware of a vast redistribution of wealth that has to take place in this country so that certain diseases, disorders and charities can continue doing the good work they’ve set out to do – and that reaches far beyond ALS.  Athletes, movie stars, singers, writers and the other media mavens out there have something precious that the rest of us don’t – a voice; with great power comes great responsibility and I hope more start using it to raise their voice for awareness.

Lots of people are doing it wrong:

And these guysare doing it right:

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Charlie Sheen’s Ice Bucket Challenge

Matt Damon has a different take on the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’

If you can’t tell by now – no, I didn’t make a video; and even if I did, beyond my cats I don’t have anything to show.  There’s no ice, no bucket, no water – instead, I donated – and wanted to impart some wisdom that I took away.  Instead of spending our mental energy making a video – or bashing a good cause – we could be converting this potential energy that we all have into something active, kinetic and helpful around our neighborhoods.

Do what you can, with what you have, for the people you care about –  whether it’s family, friends, your community…or all of the above.  Donate to your favorite cause, protest against a bad one, volunteer at a homeless shelter, read to kids at the local library, hang out at animal shelters to walk the dogs and hang out in the cat rooms, find a charity that your work gives back to, or run a marathon for charity.  Don’t be afraid to be proud of your work, but make sure you do it because you care, because you want the world to be healed and whole, and most of all – because you can.

If you’re still looking for places to donate – here are a few links:

Donate Water

World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

American Red Cross

ALS

American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)

Legalizing Psychedelic Therapy

 


 

And not that it matters, but here’s where I donated.

 

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[Self Discovery] The 10 Things Great Minds Do For Each Other

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.
– Albert Schweitzer 

Our twenties is a time of self-exploration and discovery. It’s a  rite of passage and mental manifest destiny we’re all forced to come to terms with once we enter “the real world” and figure out what it means to be a contributing member of the community, or on a more global scale – a contributing member of the human race. These are the years that we change jobs, cities, significant others, interests and musical taste as frequently as we change socks.  Just like there are laws of physics, there are also laws in the physics of our mentality: external change catalyzes internal change and propagates our growth as individual.  We need to remember that it’s not selfish to take an adjustment period to get reacquainted with your life, it’s honest; because if you can’t take a moment’s appreciation for your newly acquired situation – was there really a point?

As we work our way back into the folds of life, back into social circles and bar scenes – you have a unique opportunity to look at things with a fresh perspective. Sometimes, that perspective pulls you out of prior relationships as it pulls you into new ones – and it’s helpful to know what qualities to keep around in a person, and what to avoid.  I’ve seen (and read) a heaping dose of articles on toxic friendships lately, and just like a regular friendship – that’s a two way street, too. Whether it’s actively toxic, or passively toxic (read: enabling).For a toxic friendship to persist, both parties have to be engaging in toxic behavior.  If you’re an emotional hypochondriac and sit there using those traits as a litmus test, solemnly and discretely analyzing your relationships – you’ll probably think there’s at least one person in your world that’s ‘detrimental to your existence‘.  Instead of trying to find the negative, I want to look at the positive; if small minds tear each other down, great minds should build each other up. So, I’ve come up with a little list of qualities that you should both look for in others and manifest in yourself.

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The 10 Things Great Minds Do For Each Other

1. Encourage Growth

A good friend not only accepts you for who you are but challenges you to become the person you want to be (not the person that they want you to be) by allowing you to challenge the limits of  your comfort zone.

2. Focus on the Positive

Life follows a stereotypical pattern of twists and turns that translate into a sine curve of highs and lows. We need to both celebrate our victories and acknowledge when things aren’t up to par – but unless you’re actively working on improving something in yourself, marinating on the negative isn’t going to get you anywhere but stuck in a negative feedback cycle.  And they’re as equally detrimental to ourselves as the people around us.  Humans aren’t magnets. Negative doesn’t attract positive; positive attracts positive; you’ll get back from the universe exactly what you put into it.

3. Allow You to be Wrong

As a species, we don’t have all the answers yet – so it’s silly to think that any one individual does, either. We need to allow ourselves to be wrong in the pursuit of what is right – through empirical evidence and healthy, intelligent debate with our peers.

4. Laugh With You, Not at You

First things first, your friends should have a sense of humor.  If they don’t, there actually might be something wrong with them and you should probably should just stop talking to them all together.  Anyways, I digress. Funny happens all the time and I’ve actually laughed out loud at myself before, but when a friend actively pursues a facet of your life for their enjoyment, it might be time to cut them loose.  A good friend can find humor in the moment, but knows how to let it go and not project the humor onto you.

5. Emotionally Supportive

When life turns sour, it helps having people around that bring over vodka when all you have are lemons.  But, depending on the situation – some friends might become Negative Nancy and have nothing nice to say, a few will turn the conversation to their life and their problems (which of course, still matter – but this isn’t the time or place for it) and others will simply dip out of your life.  The positive influences in your life will find a way to give – whether its their ear, a shoulder to cry on or a couch to sleep on and silence is golden, especially when someone is at their most vulnerable.

6. Give Space When Necessary

When Galileo discovered that there was a flaw in the geocentric model, there was an uproar.  Sometimes, when people come to the realization that the world is about more than just them, they react the same way.  Everyone has a personal universe to deal with that we simply can’t know everything about.it.  We have to learn to respect boundaries and allow the people in our lives to cultivate their own worlds.

7.  Brainstorm Solutions

One of the greatest things about having a group of peers is that you get to constantly crowdsource solutions. Is your boss being too hard on you? How do you train for a marathon? Should you move to a new city?  These are all things we deal with in our life and we should feel confident that we can reach out to the people in our lives in search of our own answers.  A good friend will engage you and play devil’s advocate to get down to the root of your question.

8. Constructive Criticism

It’s okay to have an standpoint on a person, and often there’s a time and place to voice it – but unless you can find a proactive way to express it, you should probably keep it to yourself.  If you’re forming a negative opinion on someone’s life, make sure it’s not a mirror that you’re holding to your own.  Instead, take a step back from the friendship and really examine what’s bothering you.

9. Value Time

Time is valuable, and other people’s time – doubly so.  A good friend understands that everyone has their own time table and own rate of life, we simply don’t all move at the same pace in life.  So, when it comes to hanging out and getting together – they’ll let you know when they’re running late and are conscious that your time matters, too.

10. Inspire Greatness

We’re all made of stardust, and I truly believe that within each of us – there’s something amazing.  When a beautiful soul meets another, they burn brighter together – just like when two candles meet.  They listen to your ambitions, goals and lofty visions. Instead of diminishing you, or them, they’ll encourage you to chase down your dreams and convert them to reality.

I hope you guys all have friends in your life like this, because I know I do.

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art….
It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.
– C.S. Lewis –

[Get Your Earth Day On]

“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies-“God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

 Kurt Vonnegut

There are currently over 200 Million active users on Instagram and between the lot of us, we load about 60 Million snaps a day, amassing over 20 billion pictures to date; of those 20 Billion, about .2% – or 40 Million – are #selfies,a term that as of last year -not only made it into the Oxford English Dictionary, but was nominated ‘word of the year.’  Last year, the Smart Phone Market overran the PC Market with over 1.75 Billion Smart Phone users in the world, including 56% of Americans –  up from 35% 2 years ago. Of the 1.25  Billion Facebook users, roughly 25% play games on the daily.  Since 2012, the number of Americans streaming digital media like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon has gone from half the population to almost 70%, and digital streaming devices can now be found in 14% of American households; up double from 2011.  Between new developments in gaming systems, social media and technology, it’s become all too easy for the majority of us (including myself) to forget that there’s this amazingly wonderful planet that we have the opportunity to explore. I firmly believe that each day is a new chance to appreciate the beauty that surrounds you, and that goes doubly so for today, Earth Day. Today’s a day to be in awe of your surroundings, fully immerse yourself in your environment, and celebrate the beauty that surrounds you – a day to honor your relatives, both ancestors and those to come, by embracing nature and all it has to offer; and I hope more people choose to pay attention to the details and take the time to smell the flowers.  As tied in as I find myself with all things internet – from my addiction to House of Cards to my love of Caturday pictures, I’ve felt an extreme need to detach myself from these chains that masquerade as wifi signals and find some real, personal connection with my surroundings. Back in 1969, a young environmental activist named John McConnell found himself in front of the UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, pleading with peers and mentors alike that the world deserves a day to both honor the idea of peace and rejoice in the Earth’s beauty – and the year after, Earth Day was born.  In almost half of a century, the event has manifested from a local, California event into a global masterpiece in over 190 countries.There are ample amounts of Earth Day festivities around the globe that you can take part in, but if you want to do something on a smaller and more personal scale – try these on for size:

  • Ditch your wheels! Head out on foot, with skates, on a bike or with public transportation – did you know that there are some gorgeous smelling flowers just three blocks away from your house? Well, now you do!
  • Shop local and try out the Farmer’s Market around the corner or the Mom and Pop shop on the corner
  • Take a thick book into a lush park and don’t return until you’re halfway done; set your imagination free and leave your cell on silent
  • When you’re with company – do the polite thing and turn off your phone, or as a baby step – try just your mobile network. When you’re with good company; not like you need to see how many likes that rant on Facebook got you while you’re enjoying your surroundings, right?
  • Get off the grid and explore – find a new hike or walk in your neighborhood; activity loves company so call a friend or three and get your endorphins pumping
  • Help record the sound of our planet with Global Soundscapes
  • Replace your mobile gaming with a physical board game – or active sports – and invite some friends over for some friendly in person competition
  • Turn off anything with an electronic pulse and cultivate some creativity; arts and crafts shouldn’t just be for elementary school!

A Moment of Reflection

Every generation has a moment they remember with lucid clarity, as if each of us were immediately transported back in time.  The emotions, conversations and physical interactions with people run through our veins.  We still get goosebumps.  It was still yesterday.  For those that are older, there were the Gulf Wars, Vietnam, MLK’s assassination, JFK Jr’s assassination, Pearl Harbor day….the list truly goes on and on.  For my generation, it’s today.

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When I woke up that day, it was to a phone call from my best friend – I will never forget the terror and anguish in her voice; I asked my mom why she would let anyone ring me so early in the morning and with a solemn wave of the hand, I was given the remote so I could turn on the television in my room.  “Which channel, momma?” But it didn’t matter, it was the only thing on TV – a tower, standing so strong and tall, burning from the inside out.  As I grappled with what I was seeing, together – my mom, my best friend and I – watched as the second plane hit.  I was angry, scared, and confused; as a generation, we tried to put the pieces back together but we couldn’t make them fit.

My first class that morning, the second week of Junior year, was AP United States History.  The teacher, a stickler for rules and outlines, put down his notebooks and erased our chalkboard.  I had always considered him a stoic man, with a dry wit and a nice smile.  His eyes spilled out sadness, even though there were no tears.  His voice, a powerfully calm voice, swept the room – Today, there is no lesson…because today is the lesson.  This class is about the thorough examination of American culture over time; but there is no use in discussing history while we are in the process of making it.

We will never forget.  We will never forget that what tore us apart as a nation also brought us together.  We will never forget that we are all brothers and sisters working toward a common goal of increased awareness and human community.  We will never forget that we have each other.

And we will never stop making history.